5 Steps to Establishing Yourself as an Expert Online and Off

There’s a lot of talk in the marketing blogosphere about the importance of setting yourself apart from your competition–about how to be taken seriously, you must establish yourself as an expert in your field. And while that’s all well and good, no one ever really tells you how you’re supposed to establish yourself as an expert. What goes into becoming an “expert” and how do you know if you’re doing it right or you’re just spinning your wheels and getting no brand karma?

What should small business owners do to help brand themselves as authorities that users will trust?

Below are five tips:

1. Start Small: I’m sure there are a number of things you want to brand yourself and your company as being an expert on. However, start by picking one and building your empire from there. What is the one thing that your company does better than anyone else? Or what would you like to be known for doing better than anyone else even if you don’t right now? Become the go-to person for that. Once you get that under your belt, you can expand upon it and add a lot of related services.

2. Learn Everything You Can: Once you know what your area of expertise is, dedicate yourself to becoming the master of it. Read blogs and forums to stay up to date on the latest news, read discussions to understand the different pain points, read print magazines and offline materials to hear from even more sources. In order to be an expert on something, you need to be able to speak intelligently on it, and that means understanding it as thoroughly as you can.

3. Create a Plan for Sharing Your Knowledge: Through blogs and social media, small business owners are able to easily share their knowledge with others and display their expertise for everyone to see. But have a plan for how you’ll do that and use multiple formats. Maybe you’ll blog, offer webinars or speak at local events. Or perhaps you’ll host a meet up in your area and write articles for popular industry sites. Ideally, you should be doing a number of these things and sharing information in all the satellite communities where your audience hangs out. It’s not enough to simply share the content; you have to share it where people are going to notice and consume it.

4. Share Opinions, Even Difficult Ones: To really develop your standing as an industry expert, you need to be comfortable sharing your opinion on what’s going on in your niche. Use your unique point of view and your way of seeing things to share your passion with the people you’re trying to reach. It can be hard to put yourself out there and show your vulnerabilities, but you need to if you want people to able to relate to what you’re telling them. Share opinions on your blog, through social media, at local networking events, and anywhere else you can!

5. Live What You Preach: People want to see that you’re not only preaching best practices, that you’re also living them. Make sure you’re implementing the same things you’re telling everyone else to implement and that you’re not doing what you’ve told them not to do. If you’re trying to sell yourself as an authentic social media marketer, people are going to get upset pretty quick if you start sending out automated DMs or spamming them on Facebook.

Above are five tips I’d recommend to put yourself on the path to becoming an expert in your field. What did I miss? What traits or actions make someone stand out as an expert in your eyes?


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

19 Reactions
  1. #2 is important for people who consider themselves “experts” in a certain field but aren’t keeping up to date. These days, a college degree is not enough. It is mandatory to keep updated with forums and blogs (google reader, anyone?) to make sure you know what’s going on NOW in your industry.

    Nice article!

  2. Excellent points made here. The recession, as well as the boom in certain areas such as social media, has created an abundance of entrepreneurs/small businesses. It will be critical to be able to set yourself apart from others, especially others in the same field. We always talk about niche markets, but if you are TOO niche, that cuts down on your potential customer base. It’s a fine line.


  3. I especially like #1 and #3. Start small and have a plan.

    Authenticity is the ultimate key. Finding what we do best and doing it.

    Good thoughts. Thanks for the reminders.

  4. You missed the easiest one.

    #6 – Tell people you’re an expert.

    People will believe anything right? 😉

  5. Neal O'Sullivan

    You’re all reading a blog created by a self-made expert. Mimic Anita and you will do just fine.

  6. Shameless promotion! People won’t believe you’re an expert unless you’re everywhere with it. Take any opportunity to plug your expertise, and people will remember you.

  7. I think we also need to realize that being an expert can also be a stair-step process. When you know more about something than someone else, you’re an expert to them. There will always be someone who knows more than you, so don’t be shy to say you’re an expert since you are to some. And always be learning and sharing.

  8. Lisa, as usual a very smart post with sound advice. The only tip I would add as to capitalize on references to further prove your expertise in a certain field. I realize that your post is building up from the ground floor but once you have established a foundation, leverage the power of references by asking others to spread the word about your knowledge through online and offline resources. Realistically, as you start to establish that legitimate expertise people will start sharing your blog posts, webinars, etc. and help to augment your knowledge and reach but when you are first starting off it’s always beneficial to have a couple of your early fans, followers, evangelists, etc. speak up for you on your behalf to get the ball rolling.

  9. Lisa, your tips here made sense… and a whole lot of it. I just started as a someone who’s passionate about social media ( and who wants to help people save time while engaging online ). I’m not really that ‘social’… until I have to face the fact that I have to connect. So, I just took my passion and started building relationships online.. and offline. It amazes me how I just took the stand and be my own expert. The pay off? I am bugged by companies who want me to help them in their social media blue print… just because I was enthusiastic about it.

  10. Being a small business owner & being an expert in a field is hard, but I agree it takes work to do both. But it is worth it once folks accepts that you do know what you are talking about.


  11. As you plan your strategy for branding yourself as an expert, I’ve found that it’s helpful to tell stories and anecdotes. Basically, the less abstract your points are, the better. It makes the content and you as a speaker, more relatable and interesting.

  12. Good article.

    I would add #6.5 Tell people you are an expert as you only need to know a little more and you are.

  13. I especially like point #4. When you share opinions that others disagree with, you open yourself up to criticism. However no leader ever excelled without a healthy dose of criticism from opposing viewpoints. Thank you for adding this point…and the detailed explanation.

  14. All great points. I think the most important thing is staying immersed in your subject area. Lily’s comment about a college degree not being enough was spot on, but it also means reading a few books or blogs and then tossing it all aside won’t work either. You’ve got to constantly be picking up on new things and staying ahead of the tide. If you don’t, the water will come crashing down around you and another expert will sail on by.

  15. Great list but the one thing above all, is to be patient. All of this can take some time. Be patient, go thru the steps, go thru the process, stay the course and stay focused on the end game.

  16. My #6 would be to never call yourself an expert. Along with the overuse of exclamation points, ‘expert’ is one of my top pet peeves (and don’t get me started on guru, ninja…). I think this tweet from @CopyShark sums it up quite nicely: “Expert” is something others call you, and something you demonstrate, not a title you claim yourself.

  17. @RSDonna is right – it is not right to claim the title of expert yourself.

    5. Is very important. I have to ensure that not just myself but the people who work for my business follow my ethos.

    Great list – thank you.

  18. I would add the creation of an eLearning course to it. It gives you a further opportunity to share and promote your expertise and earn passive residual income from it in the process. Providing video testimonials also adds to your credibility. Good points mentioned in the article!